University delays anonymous marking by a year

The University committed to anonymous assessments to prevent biased marking.

The University of Sydney has delayed full implementation of anonymous marking by 12 months until semester 1, 2018.

USyd committed to anonymous marking in early 2016 after a Students’ Representative Council campaign.

The SRC campaign pointed to overseas data showing that the marks of women and people with Asian and African-sounding names rose significantly when tests were anonymised.

At the time, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education) Pip Pattison told Honi that “some aspects” of anonymous marking “may be in place by the Semester 2 examination period. We would certainly hope to have this in place by Semester 1, 2017.”

That will not be the case.

In late 2016, the relevant University policy was amended to state that “In examinations, tests or other assessments consisting of written elements, students should be identified on scripts, essay books or answers sheets by Student Identification Number only. Names should not be used.”

However, the policy also lets the University decide when anonymous marking will come into effect to help staff prepare for the logistics of anonymous marking.

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Registrar) Tyrone Carlin has determined that the new scheme will only commence in semester 1, 2018.

On that date, all centrally managed exams (the terrifying kind that take place at the end of semester all around campus) will be anonymously marked.

The University is seeking to have smaller assessments marked anonymously before then.

Director of education strategy Peter McCallum informed the Academic Standards and Policy Committee that “Faculties and unit of study coordinators should implement anonymous marking sooner wherever they are in a position to do so.”

According to McCallum, the delay is necessary to allow the University time to “investigate any further changes that may be required to adapt current enterprise learning systems and tools (e.g., Turnitin)”.

Turnitin has an anonymous marking function that can be activated in its settings.

Where anonymous marking is impractical, like a lab assignment, it will not be used.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of tests will be marked anonymously. Just not yet.

The Academic Standards and Policy Committee meets today (Tuesday 14 March) to note the new deadline.